Haters of the Holy One
February 9, 2022
Then the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of the people assembled at the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and plotted to take Jesus by trickery and kill Him. But they said, "Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people" (Matthew 26:3-5).
The Chief Priests were the upper crust (wealthy and more prominent) of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Many believe them to be the 70 members of the Sanhedrin, the ‘supreme court’ of Judaism in the days of Jesus. All priests were from the tribe of Levi, but not all Levites were priests. Only members of the household of Aaron (Moses’ brother) could serve as priests.
The Elders of Israel were older men who represented the people of Israel and who exercised a certain amount of authority and influence over them. They were not priests but were lay leaders of the people who joined with the Chief Priests in hating Jesus and in planning to kill Him. This was clearly understood by Jesus (Matthew 16:21; Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22). Together they bribed Judas Iscariot with 30 pieces of silver in order to betray Jesus. With regret, but not in repentance, he gave the money back to them and went out and hanged himself.
It was originally intended that the High Priest would be selected from among the priests. By the time of the New Testament the position was political, not religious, and was either appointed by Rome or sold to the highest bidder. Caiaphas was the High Priest in the days of Jesus (A.D. 15-37). His father-in-law, Annas, was High Priest before him. Often in the Gospels you read of them working together to rule over the Jews (Luke 3:2).
Caiaphas was Jesus’ primary antagonist. He pursued the demise of Jesus with an obsessive vengeance. He was afraid that Jesus was a serious threat to his position and power. Caiaphas had no sense of justice, righteousness, or godliness. He had no moral or ethical conscience. He was a godless politician occupying a religious position of authority. Sadly, the religious system that he supervised was also godless. How do we know this? Every year, on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies to offer the sacrifice for sin on behalf of the nation of Israel. Remember, the Holy of Holies housed the Ark of the Covenant. It symbolized the very presence of God among the people. In entering the Holy of Holies, the High Priest was presenting himself before the very face of God. However, 40 years before Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon conquered Judah the Ark of the Covenant mysteriously went missing. It is no longer mentioned after 2 Chronicles 35:1-6; 2 Kings 23:21-23.
If Caiaphas was such a godless religionist, how is it he could present himself before God in the Holy of Holies and offer the sin offering on behalf of the people without being killed by God (see Exodus 28; Leviticus 16:2; Habakkuk 1:13)? The answer - God was no longer present in the Holy of Holies, or even in the Temple for that matter. He had left long ago in the days of Ezekiel. Besides that, the Ark of the Covenant and Mercy Seat had long been lost to Israel. When the 2nd Temple was built, there was no shekinah cloud of God that appeared and filled the Temple. Caiaphas had no fear of being killed when presenting the blood sacrifice for sin in the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement. God was not there to kill him. Amen.